The inevitable birth announcement will probably claim that the baby boy you’ve just delivered is ‘bouncing’. This is unlikely.
You know the problem. A colleague has a baby. Someone has to write an email about it and send it to everyone else in the company. Yet ultimately, the facts about childbirth are either grizzly and barbaric or cloyingly mawkish. The permissible facts are few and far between, and most of them are inappropriate for the workplace.
As a starting point, that baby boy almost certainly won’t be bouncing, not unless you’re after a visit from social services. Bouncing children are not really a thing: the best you can hope for is some inconvenient squawking which goes on for several years. At a few hours old, they’re unlikely to be all that objectively beautiful either, except to the mother. And you’d hate to contradict her. Both phrases should be banned outright.
But there are so many standard features of the workplace birth announcement that should be outlawed, including (but not limited to):
- Any mention of the child’s birth weight. It’s a confidential medical fact. And the temptation to convert the official medical records (metric) into imperial so that thickies understand it is too great. All babies are roughly 3.5 kg so let’s all move on.
- The health of the mother, including expressions such as “doing well”. This too is a confidential medical fact. And if it’s not good news, e.g. if the mother is dead, or badly ripped, there is not really the corporate language to do justice to that sort of frightful gruesomeness.
- The health of the baby. See above.
- The name of the child. You probably don’t know your colleague’s mother’s name: why should you learn their offspring’s name unless they mention it out of working hours? And anyway, they’ll probably choose something awful and you’ll be forced to agree that it’s a pleasant name whilst secretly thinking that they’ve misspelled it in a bad way or chosen something off the telly.
- The increasingly prevalent practice of parents sending round 80s-Athena-styled photographs of the father of the child, naked from the jeans upward, holding the newborn child, often in one forearm. Particularly if the photo has been staged in an NHS bed within minutes of the birth before anyone’s been round with a mop. Gruesome, and to be avoided.
- Any attempt to lighten the birth announcement by doing it in the style of an IT Release Note, a Star Wars script, an episode of Casualty or a “hilarious” now-arriving pun based on some local train station. Also any announcements themed around the workplace in which the father works.
- More than one, small, photo. Preferably the child on its own, and certainly nothing showing that your partner wouldn’t have on display at the company ball.
- Any mention of the time of the birth to more than one hour’s accuracy. What is to be gained by knowing the length of the labour or the fact that the worst of the mess started at exactly seventeen minutes past midnight?
Of course, the birth announcement is just the start of it. Who doesn’t live in fear of that colleague who, even you don’t really know them all that well, puts you on a Photobox mailing list and sends you photographic updates every two weeks for the first year of their child’s life, bombarding you with opportunities to buy a photo of a child you’ve never met? At least you can have fun reporting their Facebook photos as inappropriate, but there is little escape from email.
Then they bring the child into work <shudder> and everyone has to have a cuddle. Especially the really clucky ones. It’s like a primary school show and tell, except with a living, sentient being. Is that even legal? I’m sure you weren’t allowed to bring pets in to school; I don’t see why a workplace is deemed appropriate for a new baby.
There are various other rules that should be followed in order to avoid any birth announcement pitfalls, but it strikes me that what’s needed is a really good template that can be used without fear of getting it wrong. The following is offered as an exemplar of good practice, conveying the essential information without cluttering up everyone’s day:
Chris’s partner gave birth to a baby boy last night. Chris will be off until two weeks tomorrow.